There are no badges in motherhood

IMG_4900Growing up, there was a brief winter or two in my elementary years where I thought I was a brilliant figure skater—and had no shortage of self-confidence. I lived for the red and white badges that were handed out at the completion of each level. The cold air in the rink stung my throat and burned my eyes but it was all worth it. Because I could do a T-stop, I had survived Level 1, and I had a badge to prove it.

I also was an elementary Girl Scout from Brownies right on through to fifth grade. The colorful triangle-shaped badges that were awarded for new skills and adventures were presented with such ceremony. The rainbows, and deer, and nature paths, and sunshine symbols all demonstrated that I was learning how to navigate the world.  Looking back now, I can see my mom’s veiled smile showing her pride when I brought home a new badge while also hiding her dread at the thought of having another thing to sew on a vest.

I can’t blame my mom that a lot of the badges didn’t make it onto my puce-colored vest. Seriously… who has time for that?

I honestly couldn’t even tell you where that vest is now… likely pitched while cleaning out a childhood closet.

However, the badges from figure skating and girl scouts and other childhood activities that didn’t make it onto the vest, the ones that were placed in a gallon freezer bag with the best intentions of eventually making it onto a vest, those are still with me today.

As I’ve become a mom I’ve noticed that mothers often appear to be in competition. Not necessarily with one another, but in the sense that they want to make sure they’re doing it “right”. And I’m not sure why a mentality or expectation of being rewarded for actions or tasks that are assumed validating resurfaces when women become mothers.

  • No coffee or deli meat during pregnancy – you get a badge.
  • Natural childbirth – you get a badge.
  • Breastfeeding for a full year… at minimum – you get a badge.
  • No pacifiers – you get a badge.
  • No processed foods and baby-led weaning – you get a badge.
  • Potty-trained by the age of 2 – you get a badge.
  • Homeschooling kids – you get a badge.

What???

Let’s be real here.

Motherhood is the ultimate test of skills and survival.

And the thing is, there isn’t just one right way to do it. There is no guidebook you can follow to cross off steps as they are completed to earn a badge.

Everyone’s situation, family, and children are different and what works for one mom and family, might not work for another.

I think that, often, it is the moms who have the best intentions–the ones who take the time to be with their children and miss “checking off” an imagined list of boxes–who are doing it right.

Sure, your kid might have had caffeine while in utero, and you might have gotten an epidural or a c-section, and some nights everyone might be eating Lunchables for dinner–but that doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong.

If you feel like you are doing what is best for you and your kids, then that is all that matters.

Everything else can just be put in a bag and set aside until later.

 

 

 

Stop Using “Girl” to Refer to a Woman

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Hey girl

You’ve got this, girl

You go, girl

Girl power!

Girls weekend

This girl I work with

The use of the word girl when referring to an adult female is commonplace in our society. I know I’ve been guilty of it. When phrases are ingrained in a culture their use becomes second nature. We don’t think twice about it.  But what happens when we do think twice about it?

The more I’ve thought about the power of language and considered how using the word girl to refer to a woman has become a social norm, the angrier I’ve become by it. I went from questioning the use of these phrases and terms to making a pointed effort to not use them.

I’m sure there will be eye rolls at this post. Judgements made that I’m looking too far into things or being too sensitive or creating something where there is nothing.

But just stop and think about it for one minute. Why do grown women–and even men–refer to other grown women as girls?

Language carries consequences that run deeper than surface level expressions and phrases. While we may think we’re just exchanging a casual sentiment, we’re actually setting the tone and providing the foundation of how we perceive one another and how others perceive us.

“Language is the power, life and instrument of culture, the instrument of domination and liberation.” – Angela Carter

Replace any of these common “girl” phrases with “boy” and envision them being exchanged in everyday settings. Have you ever heard anyone say, “this boy from work” when referencing a male colleague? Or picture a group of men shouting excitedly for “boy power!” Or envision a man offering a serious sentiment of encouragement to a male friend by saying, “you’ve got this, boy“.

When the word boy is used in a serious manner to refer to a man it is condescending and disrespectful. So why do women, and men, routinely use the word girl to refer to a woman? Why do women not only accept this, but go as far to frame it in a positive light?

Even when used in an encouraging manner or in an attempt to express friendship, when women address other women as girls we undercut our identities and place ourselves in a subservient position of power.

One of the easiest steps women can take towards achieving equality and parity in our society can be accomplished through making conscious decisions in how we address one another, support one another, and lift one another up in our choices in language. We have the power to elevate each other in the words we use. We also have the power to speak out against words we won’t tolerate. The next time someone describes a female colleague as “this girl I work with” question them. Stop perpetuating the acceptance of “girl” as a descriptor for an adult female. Choose to elevate all women by referring to one another as the powerful and capable individuals we are.

 

Oh Shipt. How Grocery Delivery is Changing My Life.

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I’m never going back. Never again will I troll through aisle after aisle pushing a cart while visually scanning and comparing prices. My days of maneuvering between the 10-foot plastic car carts and people stopped in the middle of rows riffling through coupon books are over. At least for the foreseeable future.

Between Levi and I both logging long hours, watching Garrett, and growing a new human, the 2 hours I spent every Saturday morning grocery shopping was a major bummer. From making the list, to driving to the store, to the actual act of shopping, to waiting in line at checkout, to putting all the groceries in the car, to driving home, to unloading all of the groceries from the car, to putting all the groceries away… it’s too much.

I know, I know. First world problems. But still.

There are options where I don’t have to do this. We can use those 2 hours every Saturday morning to spend time as a family, or I can get some more work done, or I can even take a nap for the growing human. Over the past five weeks I’ve tried 3 options that didn’t involve me stepping foot in the grocery store and felt the need to share.

  1. Send the husband. When I was towards the end of my first pregnancy Levi did the grocery shopping every week. He usually doesn’t get home until 5:30 or 6 p.m. so I typically make dinner most week nights. We’ve found it’s been easier if I make the grocery list for the week, that way I can meal plan around my schedule as well. Levi is great about going grocery shopping but (with his permission I’m sharing) he forgets things. Which usually requires a follow up trip later. Also, if he goes to the store we still lose out on time we could be spending together as a family.
  2. Kroger ClickList. Kroger Marketplace is where I’ve shopped every week for the past 2+ years. Digital coupons, fresh produce, 5 minutes from our house… what’s not to love? The Kroger closest to us still does not offer ClickList so I was excited when a new Kroger Marketplace about 15-20 minutes away started offering ClickList last month. So I thought I’d give it a try.
    • Downsides.
      • Limited pick-up windows. I placed my order at 8 a.m. on Sunday morning. We were going to church and I wanted to be able to pick the groceries up on the way home. The earliest available pick up window was from 1-2 p.m. Which meant we went to church, came home, and I still had to make a special trip back out for groceries.
      • Long trip time. I had to drive 15-20 minutes to the store, then I spent 15 minutes waiting in the ClickList parking lot / having the employees load my groceries (I was the only car in the ClickList pick up lanes so I’m not sure why it took so long), and then I had to drive 15-20 minutes home and still unload all the groceries from the car (Levi helped). The whole trip still an hour+… not a great time saver.
      • Fee per pick-up.  There is a $5 fee per order–not terrible, but not great when you consider other options.
  3. Shipt. This. Is. It. If there was a Mom category for the Nobel Prize this would be a contender for first place. Shipt partners with local retailers and it varies by region. For us, Meijer is the grocery store available.
    • What I love:
      • $8 monthly fee. That’s it. Less than Netflix. Orders over $35 (which we easily spend in a week) have no delivery fee. Since we order groceries once a week, I’m looking at $2 per order. Worth it.
      • Delivery windows every hour. From when you order you can typically choose to have your groceries delivered any hour beginning 1.5 hours after you place the order. Delivery windows have also been available every hour of the day each time I’ve ordered. I have had groceries delivered between 9-10 p.m., 7-8 a.m., and 3-4 p.m.
      • Communication. Your shopper texts you when they start shopping, asks you about substitutions while shopping, lets you know when they’re on their way to your house, and once they’ve arrived.
      • Delivery. Groceries show up at your house and our shoppers have carried them inside and set them on our kitchen counter. It’s like a unicorn sighting. I don’t have to go outside. I don’t have to lug bags of groceries and gallons of milk in and out of the car. Everything just magically appears.
      • Tipping Options. Tips aren’t required for ClickList or Shipt but I’ve tipped all of our Shipt shoppers so far. They have all been polite, high school / college kids who got everything on my list correct AND carried the groceries in. The Shipt app gives you the option to add a tip after your order is complete so it’s fine if you don’t have spare cash on you.
      • Your previously ordered items are saved. Items you’ve previously ordered are saved so when you make your list the following week it is quick and easy to add regular things like milk, eggs, bread, yogurt, bananas, cereal, etc.
      • Easier to manage budget. You can easily see prices for different brands while creating your order. Also, I haven’t made any impulse purchases like I do while in the actual grocery store (I’m looking at you, donut holes). These two things alone have resulted in lower weekly bills even with the monthly fee and shopper tips.
    • Downsides
      • Price discrepancies. Some items are priced higher than they would be in-store. One week a bag of Doritos was over $5. I ended up not buying them and told myself we were all probably better off because of it. For other items like toilet paper and paper towels I am using prime pantry or getting them on once-a-month Sam’s Club trips.

I realize I just wrote a small novel prior to 7 a.m. on grocery delivery. Grocery shopping is something we all have to do (unless you eat take-out for every meal, in which case, Bravo). If there is a way to do it better, I’d want to know! The two hours I’ve gained back every weekend since using Shipt have been invaluable. I’ve been able to get other work done (and make money) or, better yet, spend more time with my family. And you can’t put a price on that.

The Last Bottle

 

When Garrett turned one we transitioned him from formula to whole milk and once that seemed to settle we started the process of switching him from bottles to sippy cups. To our surprise, as we replaced the bottles with sippy cups and condensed the number of feedings, he started to eat more solids and in turn sleep better through the night. In hindsight it makes sense, but in the thick of first time parenting every change and new process seems like a puzzle.

Over the course of a few weeks we had whittled him down to a single bottle a day, given at bedtime, and we knew he was probably ready to trade that out for a sippy cup as well.

Last Saturday we spent a banner summer day playing outside, reading books, taking walks, swimming, and eating watermelon. Levi and I gave Garrett his evening bath and I carried Garrett up to his room, his arms draped around my neck, his still slightly-damp hair curling, and his sweet, soft skin smelling of soap.

I rocked him and  gave him his bottle and after I laid him in his crib I padded down the stairs and started rinsing out the sippy cups from the day and the bottle I had just given him and I realized that I had probably given him the last bottle I would ever give him.

Steam from the hot water in the sink filled the air and I thought about the hundreds of bottles Levi and I had given him over the past 14 months and the daily routine of putting a kettle on to boil each evening to wash the mountain that grew throughout the day.

No more bottles, to me, meant he was really out of the baby phase.

I felt silly for being so sad over something as simple as giving him a bottle. But I think the weight of knowing I’d never give him one again–and that I didn’t realize that before giving him the last bottle–was at the core of it.

How many lasts will I miss and not know it to be the last?

Parenthood seems to be this joyous and tiring march towards our children achieving milestones, and celebrating and being so proud of them (and ourselves) when they hit them, but what no one tells you ahead of time is that is also combined with waves of grief for the passing of each previous stage our child was in.

Maybe the feeling is something you learn to expect and know. Maybe it’s not. As I already said, in the thick of first time parenting every change and new process seems like a puzzle. But as I pack up the bottles this morning I know that Garrett is healthy and growing and thriving, and that there is so much more to celebrate on the horizon than there is to be sad over.

 

Grab Your Gals & GO

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Two weekends ago I hopped on a regional airplane and made the 2 hour trip from DAY to MSP.

I was meeting up with five of my friends from when Levi and I lived in South Dakota. It’s been almost three years since we left our apartment in Aberdeen and made the 19 hour drive to Ohio and before we hit the road these friends and their significant others saw us off with a farewell dinner and housed us for our last night in S.D.

When chatter popped up about planning the trip last fall I immediately started entertaining all of the reasons why I shouldn’t go.

  • Garrett will have just turned one and I shouldn’t leave him.
  • I’ll be busy with work.
  • I’ll want to have a down weekend at home since summer weekends fill up so quickly with commitments.
  • I should save the money.

I wanted to see these dear friends who made South Dakota feel like home for us but I also did not want to “miss” what was happening at home.

Thanks to these ladies’ constant group messages and persistent planning discussions I booked my plane tickets. Levi assured me he, Garrett, and Gunner would be fine on their “man weekend” and to go have a good time.

It was so good.

When I got there we sat in one of our hotel rooms and talked for two hours while drinking champagne.

We ate at crazy restaurants–a Chinese Latin Fusion joint topped the list–don’t knock it till you try it because where else can you get amazing queso and kung pao chicken under one roof? We ordered over-the-top drinks, danced to piano music, ate late night pizza, shopped, attempted (and failed) at breaking out of one of those puzzling Escape Rooms, and talked and laughed and talked some more.

In the last three years there has been so much new. New houses, new jobs, new babies, and it was such a gift to come together with these women who are wives, mothers, and professionals and to share what all of that has looked like for each of us.

It was a gift to not have to grocery shop for a weekend, or make meals, or clean the kitchen after making said meals, or make sure that other human beings stay alive. It was a gift to get two uninterrupted nights of sleep and set a schedule based on our desires and not those of tiny humans or work deadlines.

It is so easy to put time for ourselves second to our families and careers.

Bottom line: It is ok to take some time for yourself.

It is not selfish to take a ladies weekend to recharge and reset. Do it now. Grab your gals and GO. Everyone and everything at home will continue to run. It’s good for the soul but it’s also good for perspective. Being away, even for a little bit, makes you cherish the daily routines of life even more.